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Australia has been stunned at the SCG where India has pulled off one of the most remarkable rescue acts on these shores by drawing the third Test.
The result means the Border-Gavaskar series is still tied 1-1 heading to Brisbane, where touring teams simply don’t win.
That said, India was given almost no hope of salvaging a draw in Sydney on Monday — so why can’t it win at the Gabba to retain the trophy?
From the magic of day five Test cricket, to Tim Paine’s forgettable day, here’s five things we learnt from the third Test in Sydney.
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GOAT strikes in his 1st over!
NOTHING BEATS A FIFTH DAY OF TEST CRICKET
It has been two years since a Test in Australia last saw a fifth day of action.
That coincidentally was also a SCG Test against India but unlike this one it was dominated by the rain.
How badly we have missed them.
Test cricket is at its best when all four results are possible – you can’t blame a humble scribe for dreaming of a tie– and that’s just what this year’s SCG Test gave us.
Going into day five, the Indians had given their supporters just enough reason to dream of a record-breaking chase, starting the day at 2-98 in a chase of 407 with their two best batsmen at the crease.
Those hopes took a hit when Ajinkya Rahane perished to Nathan Lyon for 4 in just the second over of the day.
What India did next breathed life into the match and showed the value of being flexible with ones batting order.
Normally Hanuma Vihari would have been the man to walk out at No.5 with Pant at No.6. However, of the two men, Pant was both the most likely to win the Test for India while also being the least likely to scrap for a draw. Vihari, conversely, is a man unlikely to be put off by a slow run-rate without the natural stroke-making of Pant – few are.
So it was Pant who went out to bat at No.5, swallowing a painkiller after being struck by Pat Cummins on day three, who came out.
“Shut up Marnus, it’ll come back at you”
He was dropped on three by Tim Paine and again on 56 by the same man off the bowling of Nathan Lyon and for a long time they seemed like mistakes that would haunt the Australian captain.
For 44 overs the Indians did their damnedest to put on the impression they, not Australia, were the team in control.
Pant blasted three sixes and 12 fours. Pujara helped himself to 12 boundaries. The Australians were on the backfoot but still the favourites given the fragility of the Indian tail. When Pant fell for 97, with his gung-ho style finally coming undone against Lyon. It would be churlish to call it one shot too many given it was exactly that kind of stroke play that had resuscitated Australia’s hopes.
When Josh Hazlewood bowled Pujara with a gem of a ball for 77 with 44 overs, at least two results seemed to be scratched off the list – both the victory and the tie – and an Australian win seemed the most likely conclusion.
The Indians were having none of it.
TIM PAINE HAS A SYDNEY NIGHTMARE
A forgettable day for Tim Paine.Source: AFP
Tim Paine has had plenty of great days as Australia’s Test captain and its keeper.
Monday at the Sydney Cricket Ground, was not one of them.
The strings he pulled tactically failed to have the desired impact, with India putting on stand after stand in a resistance that ran the gauntlet from free-flowing to dogged.
Late in the day five he allowed his attack to get carried away with its short ball assault. Going into the final three and a half overs of the days, Australia’s seamers had only bowled 13 deliveries that would have gone on to hit the stumps.
There were two desperate reviews over India’s day-and-a-half of batting too as the Australians looked for something, anything, to give.
But it’s with the gloves that Paine would be particularly disappointed. The skipper has been outstanding behind the stumps in his time playing for Australia but was far below his normal standards as India fought out a draw.
‘Can’t wait to get you to the Gabba Ash’
Twice he let down Nathan Lyon off the bowling of Rishabh Pant, dropping him on 3 and again on 56, and the Indian keeper would go on to blast 97 runs that would be valuable in so many ways to the team.
The third drop felt just as important as he let a presentable chance to remove a stubborn Hanuma Vihari in the final 10 overs of the day. It did not help that the spill came after an over of grilling Ravichandran Ashwin over whether or not anyone in the Indian team actually liked him.
Add that to his fine earlier for his blow-up at umpire Paul Wilson over a DRS decision, and it was one forgettable match for the Australian skipper.
“Obviously the dropped catches have played a part in the result,” Paine said. “Probably going both ways to be far. But I’m bitterly disappointed, I pride myself on my wicketkeeping.
“Haven’t had too many worse days than that today, it’s a horrible feeling knowing our fast bowlers and our spinner bowled their hearts out and gave everything to do the team. I certainly feel I let them down. I have to wear that, but I’ll get another crack at it next week so move on.”
WILL PUCOVSKI IS THE REAL DEAL… AND SO IS CAMERON GREEN
Will Pucovski impressed on his Test debut at the SCG.Source: AFP
The Test debuts of Will Pucovski and Cameron Green were among the most eagerly-anticipated in recent Australian cricket history.
Both of those debuts have now come and gone, and one thing is for certain: We’re going to see a lot more of the young duo.
Two matches after 21-year-old Green’s debut in Adelaide, it was 22-year-old Pucovski being handed a baggy green at the SCG in a moment that was years in the making.
The top-order batsman was considered Australia’s next rising star throughout his junior years, before he rubber-stamped that status in October 2018 when he became the first player since Ricky Ponting to score a Sheffield Shield double-century before turning 21.
Over the next two years, Pucovski twice took leave from cricket due to mental health reasons and battled multiple concussion which slowed his rapid rise to the top.
Between those struggles, however, were a mountain of runs that saw him feature in a Test squad in January 2019 before he played for Australia proper in this summer’s third Test.
His debut innings was one of quality, particularly for a batsman forced to open the batting in his first Test. He made 62 from 110 balls, which is comfortably the best performance by an Australian opener this series.
Green SMASHES four sixes!
While some weaknesses to the short ball were notable, Pucovski’s strength off the front foot and through the leg side made him look every bit a Test player poised to achieve long-term success.
“He showed enough to show he’s a player of the future and a player of real class”, Mike Hussey declared, while Ricky Ponting said “he could be a 10-12 year player for Australia at the top of the order.”
“Very impressed with Will Pucovski’s innings today. To look the part at Test level on debut is a promising sign and rapt for him to break through after the setbacks he’s had along the way,” he later tweeted.
A nervous wait will follow the Test with Pucovski sent for scans on day five after appearing to injure his shoulder in the field.
Meanwhile, after two relatively quiet Tests, Green was afforded a chance to shine with the bat in Sydney, too.
Cameron Green looks an Australian Test player “for a decade”, Kerry O’Keeffe says.Source: Getty Images
The all-rounder made up for a first innings duck with his second knock, topscoring for Australia with a brilliant 84 off 132 balls. He rarely looked troubled through the innings, showcasing sumptuous drives before providing terrific acceleration when asked to step up the run rate to allow for an early declaration.
“How selfless was he? I think he deserves a promotion to five,” Fox Cricket analyst Kerry O’Keeffe said after the innings. “This was an innings that just developed and accelerated in the interests of the team.
“This guy is a lock for a decade. What a player Australian has unearthed.”
It’s safe to say both Pucovski and Green have been worth the hype.
STEVE SMITH AND MARNUS LABUSCHAGNE ARE SCG FREAKS
Smith’s century innings in all its glory
From their quirks at the crease, obsessive cricketing minds and outstanding ability, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne are linked in many ways.
You can add to the list their love of the SCG, where both batsmen have been close to unstoppable.
The third Test marked Labuschagne’s third at the SCG, where he made scores of 91 and 73 against India. Combined with his two prior Tests in the Harbour City, Labuschagne now has a whopping 476 runs at 95.20 at the venue — the most of anyone in the past five years.
Second on that list is Smith with 441 runs at 73.50, boosted by his most recent scores of 131 and 81.
When you consider Smith had an extra Test to play with, it makes Labuschagne’s record at the SCG particularly impressive.
Marnus OUT… Century goes begging!
A deeper dive into the stats show that the Queenslander’s love affair with the SCG is unrivalled in recent history.
No player has made more Test runs at one Australian venue in the past five years than what Labuschagne has made at the SCG.
David Warner comes close with his 454 runs — 335 in one innings — at the Adelaide Oval, while Smith has 443 at 88.60 at the MCG in the same period.
What should concern India further is that all three players love batting at the Gabba, too.
Smith averages 112.66 at the venue in the past five years and Warner 77.75, while Labuschagne has played two Test innings at his home ground for scores of 185 and 81.
PAT CUMMINS IS GREATNESS IN THE MAKING
Pat Cummins is special.Source: AFP
With every Test that passes, it becomes clearer and clearer that we are seeing greatness in the making in Pat Cummins.
This Test was hanging in the balance on day three when second new ball was taken by Australia after lunch on day three.
India was 4-181, trailing Australia’s first innings total by 157 runs, with Cheteshwar Pujara eyeing the kind of marathon innings that frustrated the hosts throughout 2018-19 and Rishabh Pant hinting at the same kind of firework performance he had produced at the SCG two years earlier.
If the pair managed to take the shine off the second cherry and soften it up, the Indians would be firm favourites to post a serious first innings lead.
If the Australians found a way past either of them early with the new ball and those fortunes would be reversed.
For the first four overs it, Pujara and Pant looked at ease against the new ball. Enter Cummins.
Rahane’s stump explodes
The seamer hit the deck hard, attacked the body and the top of off, looking to hit either the splice of the bat or the shoulder of the batsman.
It was a spell that changed the tone of the match.
Pant was struck on the right elbow. Pujara on the left shoulder.
Softened up by Cummins, Pant was caught playing away from his body against Josh Hazlewood. Cummins himself then took Pujara’s edge, ending a 176-ball vigil with the first delivery that actually managed to trap him on the crease.
From there the Indians slumped to 244 all out, with Cummins taking the handy figures of 4-29 off 21.4 overs.
Alas, he was unable to overcome a stubborn Indian resistance in the second innings
He now has 158 wickets at 21.47 in Test cricket.
That average will fluctuate over the course of his career – still only 27 years old he still has plenty of time ahead of him – but among bowlers with more than 150 Test wickets, only six boast a better average, with the most recent of those being Curtly Ambrose (405 at 20.99) who retired in 2000. The only Australian with a better average and more wickets is the great Alan Davidson (186 at 20.53).